Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

A peppery arugula pesto tossed with a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts in the pesto, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries

I meant to post this weeks ago, but my notes were somehow buried in a blizzard of files on my desktop. Better late than never, right? Here goes. I had a good-sized bag of arugula left-over from my nephew Jack's first birthday party and needed to use it up. I decided to give the bulk of it a whirl in the food processor and turn it into an arugula pesto of sorts. Not very creative, I'll admit, but the resulting puree was great - electric-green with a peppery kick. It's just the sort of thing to slather on a sandwich, dollop over hot pasta, or you can do what I did, and work it through a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

At $1 per pound the Massa Organics wheat berries were the deal of the year for me. I usually hit the Massa stand for their brown rice (which they are famous for) or their almond butter - but couldn't resist the wheat berries when I came across them. These wheat berries have a beautiful, barely-noticeable red blush when cooked, and they plump into perfect oblong orbs that look like they might pop between your molars.

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Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

While this is a great salad, I wanted to make more of a meal out of it so I threw in some seitan. Wayne brings home packets of Sweet Earth brand seitan, and I like it. I also noted that cubes of cooked potatoes would be great here.

3 cups cooked wheat berries*
3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 cup pine nuts (or sliced almonds), toasted (divided)
3 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 big pinches salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup black Kalamata olives, chopped
4 - 6 ounces seitan, (optional), chopped and pan-fried into crispy bits in a bit of oil
a bit of shaved Parmesan as garnish

Place the wheat berries in a large mixing bowl and set them aside so they can come up to room temperature if you've had them in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, make the arugula pesto by combining the garlic, 1/2 cup of the pine nuts, most of the arugula, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse a few times, and then begin to drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while continuing to pulse until the pesto is smooth. Taste, and adjust if needed with more salt or lemon juice.

Pour about half of the pesto over the wheat berries, add the seitan if you are using it, the reserved arugula, and about 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water (or reserved water from cooking the wheat berries). Toss until everything is well-coated. Add more pesto a bit at a time until the wheat berries are dressed to your liking - I actually go a bit on the heavy side with this particular combination.

Arrange on a platter and top with the olives, remaining pine nuts, and a bit of shaved Parmesan.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.

Serves 6 as a side, less as a main.

Prep time: 15 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Wheat berries are so fun...great texture mix in this salad!


As usual this looks great (LOVE arugula), but I couldn't get past "had a good-sized bag of arugula left over from my nephew's first birthday party." That set my mind off on "Arugula - strange birthday present" and "Even stranger birthday cake" :-D


I'm curious to know what wheat berries taste like - seems like they would be dry.

nithya at hungrydesi

Now that is a high-fiber dish that I'd be more than happy to dig my fork into. The arugula pesto sounds lovely.

Cookin' Canuck

Heidi, Thanks for another great recipe. So healthy too.


This looks pretty tasty! We made wheat berries in class the other night and I tried them for the first time. They are truly delicious, and maybe I"ll use this recipe for my first excursion at home! thanks!

Heather @ chik n pastry

What a great use of arugala - not boring at all! Now I want to make a sammie with it!


Heidi - This dish is at once simple, elegant, and hearty! Have you ever tried toasting the wheat berries before cooking them?... I love the nuttiness it brings out!

Michelle @

We are surrounded by wheat fields where we live in CA! Needless to say, I have two 5-gallon buckets full of wheat berries, and could only think to make flour out of them, but this sounds amazing! I can't wait to try it!


Somehow you manage to make even the simplest of dishes look elegant and delectable. >>Sarah - yes, wheat berries and farro are only slightly different (both from wheat family - farro is spelt.) I substitute farro all the time.


I've recently fallen in love with wheatberries. Mixing in a pesto is a wonderful idea! This sounds delicious.


Wheat berries! I haven't used them for years since I last put them in bread. Pesto, I used to love basil pesto, but it doesn't love me any more (repeats, as they say). I'd have to use another sauce unless the arugula leaves are different from basil which is used for many ordinary pesto recipes. I might have to give the arugula leaves pesto a try!


There's nothing like pesto in the summer. How refreshing to find such an original use for my favorite flavor!


Thanks for sharing! I love arugula pesto. The wheatberries look amazing. I wish I could get ahold of great, quality ingredients where I live!

Lisa A.

Yumm, love creative pestos! We just tried an artichoke pesto that came out great! (Artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, s&p)


Arugula pesto is awesome, I use any green that is going bad and turn it into pesto! I'm gluten free but there are so many places to put pesto!

Hannah (Hannah's Harvest)

I love arugula pesto too and could eat it on everything. I usually make mine with walnuts and lots of lemon juice and toss in a handful of parsley if I have some around. Trader Joe's makes a nice grain mix with mung beans, Israeli couscous, quinoa, and orzo and I usually toss a bunch of pesto on that for dinners in the summer.


Hi Heidi, I bought a bag of farro and have discovered that it is whole farro, which I believe I need to soak before cooking. Could I use that instead of the wheat berries? Are whole farro and wheat berries different? Thanks!


A meal for Obama, no?

Mama JJ

Hello Heidi, I love arugula pesto! But never tried it on wheat berries - or I wonder if I have ever had wheat berries, even. Maybe I have, maybe not. They might be a bit hard to find here anyways, so I guess I'd try pearled barley or farro instead.


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